Protesters gather across the state to call attention to Medicaid "purging"

Published: Aug. 27, 2019 at 7:24 PM CDT
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When he was in Springfield recently Missouri Governor Mike Parson spoke of revamping the state's health care system, emphasizing eliminating Medicaid fraud.

One aspect of the current system has become very divisive, mainly along Democratic and Republic party lines, but it revolves around the number of people who've had their Medicaid health insurance discontinued.

Since January, 2018 over 127,000 Missourians have had their Medicaid health insurance dropped. Over 100,000 of those were children and that's what brought protesters out on Tuesday.

Around 20 protesters turned out at Glenstone and Battlefield in Springfield holding signs that read, "Healthcare is a human right", "Stop cutting our kids", and "Thou shalt not stand idly by".

"I think it's important because silence is acceptance," replied protester Vicke Kepling when asked why she was there. "I don't believe this is party against party. To me this is about right and wrong and I believe that health care should be a human right."

"We're a non-partisan non-profit group and we work for health care for people of all parties," added Rebecca Johnson, who organized the Springfield protest as part of the statewide Missouri Health Care for All movement. "We want to make sure everyone has access no matter where in the state they live or how much they make. When over 100,000 kids are being cut then obviously something is going terribly wrong.

One recent example we told you about was eight year-old Jason Smith, who was about to receive a pacemaker when his family was informed he was no longer eligible for Medicaid benefits.

The Smiths used their Medicaid to help pay for what their primary insurance won't cover for Jason's unsteady oxygen levels.

"Without it we would lose our house," said his mother Angela. "We would have to sell our vehicles. We live paycheck to paycheck."

The proponents of the current Medicaid system do not dispute the dropping numbers, but contribute them to a new automated computer system that's now doing a better job of determining who does and who doesn't meet the criteria for Medicaid health insurance.

Critics say the new system has created confusion among Medicaid patients and some of them haven't even been informed of the changes until after their payments stop.

Proponents also point out that another reason for the drop in Medicaid recipients is the improvement in the state's economy and the fact that more people are finding jobs and no longer need government assistance.

Gene Huertado attended the protest but sides with those who support the new Medicaid approach.

"If the governor can take those people who don't have jobs right now and put them in the solid training programs that the state already has in place, that would substantiate the Medicaid problems in Missouri."

Huertado also said there are many problems statewide that if solved would help lower the Medicaid numbers.

"We've got bigger fish to fry," he said. "We've got the homeless issue, joblessness. Low-income people need the opportunity to come up to the normal standards of living."

The Department of Social Services also responded with this statement:

"It is important to note that Missourians who have Medicaid coverage have some personal responsibility to continue to receive those benefits and must return the annual review form. Failure of individuals to return the annual review is one of the issues the Family Support Division (FSD) continues to address. DSS is using more opportunities to engage Missourians on benefits. Citizens have more ways than ever to ever before to apply for Medicaid and other assistance programs. Individuals can apply online at MyDSS, by mail, by phone, or in person at any of the resource centers located in every county. Anyone who meets the eligibility requirements receives services. If a person loses coverage they can apply to check eligibility for immediate and prior quarter coverage. Approximately 265 entities across the state can determine presumptive eligibility to make it possible for Missourians to receive immediate Medicaid coverage.